How easy is it to open a basic bank account?

For most the task of opening a bank account sounds like quite a bit of admin, which could potentially take up time you may not have. But are we maybe overcomplicating the process? Moneybags writer Danielle Van Wyk looks at the ease of opening bank accounts at the big five banks.

To open a South African bank account one typically needs to be over the age of 18, produce proof of identity through your ID or passport and proof of a South African address. That being said, different banks have different application processes.

First National Bank (FNB)

“To open a FNB Easy account you must be a 16 year old South African citizen with no minimum income required. An FNB Easy Account offers you banking that’s easy to understand and easy to use. The requirements vary depending on the type of bank account you want to open. Moreover, it is essential for consumers to opt for a bank account that best suit their needs in order to get maximum value. If you are unsure, speak to your bank to get clarity,” explains FNB representative Senzi Dlamini.

While traditionally you would need to go to a bank branch to physically fill out application forms in order to open an account, FNB allow you to do it all online. By providing them with your details you are issued a reference number which then allows you to gain access to the application forms. Once you have completed them, the bank sends over someone to your location for you to sign for and collect your bank card, you are expected to then provide the courier with a copy of both your ID document /passport and proof of address such a utility bill which is not older than three months. This account will become active as soon as all the documentation is in.

Alternatively customers are also able to visit a branch in applying to open an account.


“If you are a new customer applying for an account, please bring the following documents to the branch, a valid identity document (ID), proof of income (pay slip), proof of residential address (which must not be more than three months old), three (3) months bank statement and if applicable offer a letter to study at an institution or proof of registration (applicable to the Absa Silver Student and Absa Gold Graduate Account),” states Absa.

Products can alternatively be opened online. “The customer would need to go to, select the product that they are interested in and go through the online application process.  Once the online application process is complete, a call centre consultant will contact the customer in order to verify and fulfil the application.  This takes about 24 hours at most. At this point the Absa consultant will find out from the customer if they want to collect the card or have it delivered. It takes 2-4 days to deliver the Debit Card to the customer,” says Absa.

Alternatively you can visit your nearest branch to open an account with them. Here you will be asked to produce the necessary documentation and a branch consultant will assist you through the process.


Like FNB, Nedbank boasts an online application process. Here, “product information is described, and the client can complete the form themselves. Once submitted the account is opened and the client is notified via SMS to go to their selected branch to sign the documents and pick up the ATM card. It is at the branch that the ID and proof of residence is confirmed and FICA is performed. Time to complete the online form is less than eight minutes, and the account is opened within 24 hrs,” states Nedbank.

Alternatively individuals can visit their local branch for assistance too. “An individual can visit a branch and will sit with a banker and discuss their needs and what they wish to use the account for. Based upon the discussion, our banker will recommend one of our transactional accounts best suited to the client’s needs. The product features, benefits and costs are explained to the client to ensure the client understands what s/he is getting and how much s/he will pay.

“The client signs the product application form, the banker opens the account and digital banking profile, and explains to the client about digital banking. The banker allows the client to select a PIN for their card and this is encoded. The client provides their ID and proof of residency and FICA is performed and the transaction is concluded. This usually takes 30 – 45 minutes depending on the length of the discussion to assess the client’s needs,” Nedbank adds.

Standard Bank

If you’re one of those people that are constantly on-the-go, Standard Bank caters for you, with their online application process.

“Standard Bank offers an online account opening capability and customers can complete the application without leaving their home and office. The application takes a few minutes and we then validate the information captured and deliver the card to the customer within the week – KYC (Know Your Customer) is completed on delivery of the card,” says Kuben Chetty, head of transactional, savings and investments at Standard Bank.

Customers alternatively can visit their nearest branch with the above documentation. “The process can take up to 20 minutes with face-to-face engagement if the customer wishes to have the account number and card immediately. At Standard Bank, we are constantly looking for ways to improve the customer account opening process and through investments in technology and listening to the needs of our customers, we aim to reduce this account opening time even further,” Chetty adds.


“At Capitec Bank we know that our clients are busy people and try our best to make the banking process smooth and easy, therefore opening a bank account with us can be done in minutes with your account activated immediately as long as the client has all the required documentation with them when applying,” adds Capitec.

Opening of new bank accounts must be done inside a branch. “We capture a client’s picture and fingerprints to verify the client and ensure that the account is secure,” Capitec highlights.

Unfortunately having a bank account in this day and age is unavoidable, but the opening or switching of bank accounts needn’t be a schlep.

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